Just before question period, a couple of touching statements were made to mark the death of Toronto Star columnist James Travers. The House was silent as Bob Rae broke down while making his statement. Being relatively new in the gallery, I hadn’t spent much time with Travers, but I felt as though I knew him from watching him on television with Don Newman for years. We did travel together last summer on the Liberal Express bus to Pembroke, and he was a great and funny travel companion. He was a superb journalist and his wit and wisdom will be missed. (Here are more tributes from Susan Delacourt, Don Newman, Mark Kennedy and Glen Pearson.)
Question period started off with Ralph Goodale and Dominic LeBlanc having a retreaded exchange with Pierre Poilievre on the In & Out issue. Gilles Duceppe and Pierre Paquette shook things up by asking about the charges laid in the Cinar fraud case and why the government was bothering to introduce legislation to freeze Ben Ali’s Canadian assets when they had other mechanisms to do so. Jack Layton returned to the In & Out scheme.
Round two kicked off with Marc Garneau, Carolyn Bennett, Gerry Byrne, Bob Rae and Claude DeBellefeuille each asking about various aspects of the In & Out issue. Things moved on with Christiane Gagnon asking about the Quebec City arena and Raymonde Folco asking about Kairos. (Bev Oda gave a non-answer about how much good work on foreign aid her government was doing.) Her response was the same again for John McKay’s similar question.
Round three saw questions on forestry, cod stocks, cuts to housing programs, prison construction, Nutrition North, enhancing the CPP and back taxes owed by cigarette companies.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Bonnie Crombie for her purple top with grey trim and black skirt and to Scott Simms for his charcoal pinstriped suit with a crisp white shirt and burgundy tie. Style citations go out to France Bonsant for her mustard jacket and mustard-and-brown plaid skirt, as well as Gordon O’Connor for his charcoal suit, lavender shirt and far-too-busy red tie.
Another small scandal broke out at the end of QP. It was revealed that Jason Kenney mistakenly sent a partisan fundraising letter to an NDP MP using his parliamentary letterhead; it detailed Conservative plans to capture the ethno-cultural vote. The staffer in question has resigned (naturally – way to go ministerial accountability). To hit back, the Conservatives started pointing out every Liberal website with a parliamentary logo on it.
The Canadian Press once again gives us some ace reporting, looking into the way the Conservatives have rebranded the Government of Canada into the “Harper Government.” Oh, but there’s nothing wrong with it, the PM’s communications director says, before adding that Orwell says hi.
Liberal MP Glen Pearson laments the government’s cuts to housing funds. While he understands part of this is because stimulus spending is wrapping up, the need for affordable housing has never been greater, and the loss of those funds isn’t making the situation any better.
The government is still spending a million dollars per year for the office of public appointments. It doesn’t actually exist yet, though, since Harper threw a tantrum when the opposition didn't like that he wanted to install one of his fundraisers as the chair.
Gilles Duceppe says that if unredacted Afghan detainee documents aren’t released by April 15, the Bloc is going to pull out of the special process that’s currently going through them.
A bit of shameless self-promotion: I was surprised to hear that Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett quoted my blog post on the Senate abolition motion (alongside quotes from Chantal Hébert) during debate in the Commons yesterday. Highlight of my day.